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Beauty or Beast?
Angelina Elizabeth Darrisaw
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"Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't," sings India.Arie in her song "Video." "It really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul." I can definitely relate.

I do shave often in the summer for the hot weather's sleeveless clothing, but sometimes I question why. Constant shaving can lead to razor bumps, burns, ingrown hairs, dark spots and other problems that look worse than a little bush. Shaving can also be annoying, but it's a part of the price we women pay to be pretty.

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The first time I shaved, I was on vacation in the summer after 4th grade. My older cousin and I decided we were too hairy and got a hold of one of my mother's razors. We shaved each other's legs and afterwards they felt so smooth and good.

Little did we know that once you start, you can't stop-not if you want your legs to stay smooth. The stubble of hair grew back rough over the next few days and we did it again. But after we went back home, we both stopped.

Hairy Bodies a No-No

I started up again in 7th grade. I'd gone to coed school until then, but when I started going to an all-girl school, the girls told me hairy bodies were a no-no. So, I begged my mom to buy me a pink Gillette razor. She didn't think I should start shaving so early, but I told her, "Look at how hairy I am!"

She gave in, and I shaved often after that. I experimented with creams and hair removers, but I went back to shaving because it was easier and it didn't smell bad. And I love the baby soft skin that I get as a result.

But when I wake up some days, I don't care how natural I look or how stubbly I am. I've gone outside wearing sleeveless shirts and dark hair under my arms. And I like it.

image by Stephanie Wilson

My mother will say something like, "You look very natural." My friends are more direct. They'll just tell me, "You forgot to shave."

My mom is right, though; it is completely natural. It's just hair, right? What's the big deal? I don't understand why body hair is such a turn off.

Hairy Doesn't Mean Dirty

A lot of men seem to find women with legs and underarms that mirror their own unattractive. One man told me he wouldn't even date a woman if she had a moderate underarm bush. He said it's part of being beautiful, and a woman would have to realize that if she didn't shave, she would get approached less.

And a friend of mine told me that underarm hair is nasty because it shows a girl has bad hygiene. Since when is shaving part of being clean? You can bathe twice a day and get every nook and cranny, but still not feel like shaving. Having hair doesn't make me or anyone else any less clean.

Most guys don't shave there, so why should I? I realize that shaving is like putting on makeup. The idea is that we are enhancing our features by shaving. But even more, it's also about conforming to the societal belief that women's body hair-when it's not piled on their heads-is unattractive.

I Admit, I Conform

It takes the same kind of confidence for a woman in today's judgmental society to have a hairy body as it does for her to have a bald head. A woman who doesn't feel the need to shave is confident enough in her beauty that she doesn't need to conform. That's a confidence I respect.

But it's not a confidence I share. When it comes to shaving, I conform like everyone else. In the winter, I slack off and shave very little, since no one will notice. But for right now, I think I'll go with the weather. As long as the summer season lasts, I'll appreciate the smooth, groomed feel of my underarms and legs just after shaving.

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(NYC-2002-09-26a)